This week President Obama sealed his legacy as the most divisive president in modern times, who will leave behind both worsened race relations and a set of arguments about Iran that will surely feed anti-Semitism.
That race relations have worsened under Obama is crystal clear, as even publications like The New York Times have acknowledged. A Times/CBS poll conducted in July revealed that “nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.” And Americans did link the downturn to the president: “almost half of those questioned said the Obama presidency had had no effect on bringing the races together, while about a third said it had driven them further apart.”
Think of that: a third of the American people, over a hundred million Americans, hold the president responsible for worsening race relations in the country. Why would that be? It’s reasonable to say the Mr. Obama’s close relationship with people who make a living from bitter race relations, such as Al Sharpton, plays a part. And so does Mr. Obama’s repeated insertion of himself into divisive racial situations even before the facts were fully known—starting with the famous case of the Harvard professor, Skip Gates, arrested in 2009.
But now, Mr. Obama is adding another item to this legacy of deeper divisions among Americans. The administration is scrambling to defend its Iran nuclear deal, which polls find is rejected by about a third of all Americans—the same number who support the deal. And the trend is downward: as people learn more, they are more skeptical.
The administration’s arguments on the merits are failing, so Mr. Obama has started arguing that the opposition comes from people who are in the pay of big donors, or who put Israel’s security first. This practice actually began in January, when the president met with all Democratic senators and discussed the Iran negotiations. According to The New York Times’s report, “The president said he understood the pressures that senators face from donors and others, but he urged the lawmakers to take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain.”
The statement would have been bad enough had the president referred only to “short term political gain.” By doing so he was saying critics of the coming Iran deal had no real principled objections and were simply playing politics with national security. It was vintage Obama: there’s no real debate here, just my principles and the dirty political motives of those who disagree.
But that’s not all he said, and “Donors and others” was a clear reference to opposition from AIPAC and the Jewish community. Lest anyone misunderstand, the president and his close supporters have been even clearer as the debate has gotten hotter.
The basic idea is simple: to oppose the president’s Iran deal means you want war with Iran, you’re an Israeli agent, you are in the pay of Jewish donors, and you are abandoning the best interests of the United States. So Dan Pfeiffer, senior political adviser to Obama until this winter, tweeted that Senator Charles Schumer—who announced his opposition to the Iran deal last week—should not be Democratic leader in the Senate because he “wants War with Iran.”
Obama himself set the overall tone in his speech last week at American University:
Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.